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Saturday, 20 August 2016
Photos courtesy of John Cowpland/Photosport.nz
Article by Jamie Troughton, Dscribe MediaAugust 20 2016Two powerful paddles have propelled the New Zealand K4 kayaking crew of Jaimee Lovett, Kayla Imrie, Aimee Fisher and Caitlin Ryan into the biggest race of their lives.
The quartet, making their Olympic debuts in Rio de Janeiro, scorched across the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in 1min 34.778secs to advance to tonight's Olympic A final. Gold medal favorites Hungary and world champions Belarus advanced directly to the final by winning their heats, while Germany won the other semifinal in 1:34.710.
After finishing third in their heat, Ryan believes the most satisfying aspect is their speed endurance, after stunning many teams last year with their speed off the start line.
"People discount it, but we've got that endurance now," she said. "You've either got endurance or you don't and we can't be counted out at the end of the race either. All of us trust each other to finish well and we've shown that here."
Qualifying for tonight's final - set to run at 12.32am (NZ time) has capped a magnificent canoe sprint campaign for New Zealand at these games, with Lisa Carrington winning gold and bronze.
But it's the manner in which the K4 has raced - smooth, unruffled and confident - that has particularly impressed."It's just really cool to get out there, have a good race and express all the hard work we've done," Lovett said. "Just to be on the startline and feel the trust through the boat, and the strength."
The last 18 months have been grueling under national women's coach Rene Olsen but he's worked just as hard on the team culture in the boat. That's the key which has unlocked their potential.
"We never really knew what we had in us," Ryan said. "We had not much expectation but as we came together and kept working, we thought 'why not?' We've got the potential, we've done the training and now it's becoming more real as time goes by."
The crew also paid tribute to the incredible support they've had from family and fans, in home towns like Wellington (Imrie), Whakatane (Lovett), Hastings (Fisher) and Auckland (Ryan).
The Kiwis made history before they even picked up a paddle in anger, becoming the first New Zealand women's K4 to compete at the Olympics. The last men's team was in 1992.
The crew qualified at last year's world championships and placed fifth and third at two World Cup regattas this year.
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